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Hornets in the Ninth Ward

Liz Robbins of the New York Times took a bus tour of Katrina's wreckage with Byron Scott, Speedy Claxton, Chris Paul, Aaron Williams, and David West, among others.

The most stirring sight for Speedy Claxton, the Hornets' veteran point guard, was the one word he saw spray-painted on the front of a desolate bungalow. "It said 'Help,' " Claxton said, shaking his head.

One day before the Hornets were to play their third and final game in New Orleans — having relocated for this season and next to Oklahoma City — four players, Coach Byron Scott and his wife, Anita, and a handful of Hornets employees took a tour of the New Orleans areas that were hit hardest by the floods from Hurricane Katrina.

They saw the dichotomy of their lives and the destroyed ones of their city's fans — scenes that made them question, uncomfortably, how basketball would ever have a place here. Suddenly, their eight-game losing streak did not seem as disconcerting.

"We're fortunate enough to be in a situation where we make good money, and there are some parts of the city where people are living in trailers, tents, parking lots of Wal-Mart," forward David West said. "You don't feel at ease with that situation.

"What we do in terms of our profession isn't that big of a deal when you got major life issues people are dealing with — it's quite a reality check."

Forward Aaron Williams took pictures with his phone to send to his wife as the bus returned to the team's luxury hotel in the French Quarter.

Obviously, I'm a big believer in the healing power of sports. But I wonder if something smaller scale, cheaper and more accessible to the public (high school and college sports, perhaps? Pickup ball? Streetball?) might be more in order for a city dealing with this kind of devestation. Something about bringing all that bling, security guards, and portable gaming systems tweaked to work in luxury hotels--right now that seems like a mismatch. Maybe it will all be a little better by this coming fall. I hope so.